By: Chris Hodges, editor-in-chief
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I like that video games in general don’t take themselves too seriously, certainly not as seriously as movies or TV shows tend to take themselves. It’s neat how the same character can be a monster killing badass in one game and driving a go kart or playing tennis in another. However, that type of “flexibility” just doesn’t make sense for every character, and sometimes it can be jarring and downright ridiculous to see an otherwise ultra-serious character in a lighthearted context. Here are five notable examples of characters who should’ve had too much gravitas to have fist fights with Parappa, be self-conscious about their bra size, or grind on each other in a parking garage.
5. Kratos in Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds
Even before we first take control of Kratos in God of War, he has already massacred hundreds of people, including his own wife and daughter whose ashes are now stuck to his skin as penance for his actions. Then, through the course of the series, he murders hundreds more–including actual gods–and does so in the most gruesome and violent ways possible, while occasionally stopping to participate in really aggressive group sex before his blades have even cooled down from his most recent killing spree. So what does he do when he isn’t committing mass murder, deicide, and sexual acts unfit for an R-rated movie? Playing golf, apparently. And it’s not even like he shows up in a “serious” golf game, or one with a more violent and sexually subversive tone along the likes of an Outlaw Golf. Nope, Kratos takes to the tee in the Hot Shots Golf series alongside cutesy anime-inspired characters–as well as more appropriate Sony characters like Ratchet and Sackboy–on bright, colorful courses with bouncy music and bouncier announcers. Even more disturbing is that he uses his main weapon –the Blades of Chaos–as his club, the same weapon he probably just dislodged from the base of someone’s spine an hour prior.
4. Big Daddy in PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale
In BioShock, Big Daddies are meant to be an absolutely terrifying presence, nigh-unstoppable hulking behemoths that you are advised to hide from–and failing that, run like hell from–rather than ever being foolish enough to try to fight one head-on. You spend much of the game simply watching them slowly skulk around, hoping the light on their helmets remains green (you’re safe, they haven’t noticed you) rather than turning red (they know you’re there, you’ve pissed them off, and they’re about to drive that giant drill into your skull). To see them hopping around and lobbing missiles at the likes of Parappa the Rapper and Fat Princess doesn’t do much for their mystique and intimidation factor–nor does doing so in locations like Chop-Chop Master Onion’s pastel-colored 2D dojo. Not to mention that outside of the context of BioShock and their role as protectors of little girls, having the name “Big Daddy” sounds more like what a douchebag would name his tricked-out pickup truck adorned with “Keep Calm and Chive On” window clings and Confederate flag bumper stickers.
3. The cast of Indigo Prophecy/Fahrenheit in Indigo Prophect/Fahrenheit
You don’t always have to venture to a different game to see a cast of characters being used in a way that is completely antithetic to their original design and intention. Sometimes, all you have to do is go into a game’s extras menu and open a video called “Da [sic] Hidden Dancefloor” to see the cast of a dark, complex, disturbing game dancing to bad 1970s funk music. And not only dancing to it, but doing so in their underwear as they shamelessly shake their asses and grind on each other. It is such an odd juxtaposition when you consider how many of those characters were murdered, committed suicide, had psychotic breakdowns, and/or any other number of twisted things happen to them on the same game disc where this half-naked booty-grinding parking garage dance party can also be found. And just for good (classy) measure, creator/director David Cage went ahead and inserted himself into the scene so that he could dry hump his own female characters, too.
2. Maria Renard in Castlevania Judgement
In the Castlevania universe, Maria Renard was orphaned after her parents were killed, and it was eventually revealed that she possessed great power. So great, in fact, that in a Rondo of Blood alternate ending she actually dispatches of Count Dracula herself–no small feat given how many generations of Belmont men failed to properly do so. So it was already a mistreatment of her character in Castlevania Judgement to have her all giggles and puppy dogs and spouting lines like “I may be cute as a button but I’m tough as nails!” However, that isn’t even the worst part. As the story goes on, Maria begins to feel insecure and inadequate as she meets the game’s cast of sexy adult women, and more specifically–and ridiculously–she becomes obsessed with how large their breasts are. In one scene, she can’t even focus on what someone is saying to her because she is just staring in awe of the other woman’s massive boobs, openly remarking “They’re huge” in a completely mesmerized tone. When the woman tells her that they just get in the way (I wish I were making this up that this is an actual conversation that takes place in this “serious” game), Maria becomes enraged at the woman’s disparaging remarks of her “sacred gifts” and that anger is literally the catalyst for the two to fight. Sure, the whole point is that Maria eventually learns the noble lesson that it’s more important to be a pure soul and to be beautiful on the inside, and there’s no point to being sexy and voluptuous if it means being a rotten person blah blah blah, but it’s hard to take that seriously with lines like “Even the vampires have bigger ones than mine!” as we see an extreme close-up of huge, jiggling breasts spilling out of a Hot Topic-caliber corset.
1. Pyramid Head in New International Track and Field
If there’s one game that doesn’t have a single hint of humor or lightheartedness, it’s Silent Hill 2. That game is a dark, depressing experience from start to finish, with a cast of deeply tormented and/or horribly disturbed characters. At the center of it all is Pyramid Head, one of gaming’s most terrifying presences ever. The first time we see him, it’s through a keyhole from a dark closet as he appears to sexually defile another creature, and he spends the rest of the game stalking us as he drags his huge, rusty blade along Silent Hill’s rusty metal floors. And, in one of the Silent Hill movie’s more interesting moments, he literally rips someone’s skin clean off with a single fluid motion. It’s hard to think of a more head-shaking decision than the one Konami made to take one of its most brilliant creations, re-imagine him as a cute cartoon avatar, and have him be a playable character in a Track & Field game for DS (and alongside Frogger and one of the wrestlers from Rumble Roses–a game with mud wrestling and girl-on-girl spanking–no less. Sure, Solid Snake is in there, too, but the Metal Gear Solid games already have their fair share of intentional silliness, so it doesn’t seem as jarring to see Snake in a game like that. To see Pyramid Head running a sprint or doing the breast stroke definitely deludes his legacy significantly, far more than any bad movie or lackluster game sequel ever could. Sure, I can only imagine how Konami has been and will continue to be pimping out its characters for pachinko machines and the like, but I don’t live in Japan so at least I don’t have to know about it.